Friday, January 1, 2016

On a High Note

4:30 AM

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Kalafina's got all your standard girl group stuff. They've also been accused of aiding the destruction of human souls. 

Matching outfits, cutesy power poses, super-short skirts: Kalafina’s got all your standard girl group
stuff. But you know something is off when people start accusing them of aiding the destruction of
human souls.

Kalafina has a reputation – and that reputation comes from the fact that all but two of their singles thus far have been used as theme songs for animes, films, and TV shows. Most of the animes, in particular, have caused fangirls and fanboys around the world to burst into tears in the middle of the night. Kalafina has sung for Aldnoah.Zero, Fate/Zero, Kara no Kyoukai: The Garden of Sinners, Kuroshitsuji, and perhaps most infamously, Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

You could chalk their popularity up to just this and the fact that they’re run by Yuki Kajiura, their producer and the score composer for almost all these shows. But that idea is completely shattered as soon as you hear them sing.

Kalafina performs "Oblivious," the theme song of the first Kara no Kyoukai movie. This movie series was the entire reason that Kalafina was formed, and each of its episodes involves several people dying. Basically.

The three usual reactions: (1) “Whoa, this is a cool sound,” (2) “What the hell, why does that cute girl in the middle sing like that?!”, and (3) “… Wait, is this even in Japanese?”

Variety is the spice of life, and the spice in Kalafina. You’ve got three sexy ladies with astoundingly different voices that pretty much cover all the female vocal ranges. You’ve got your lyrics jumping from Japanese to English to Kajiurago (a made-up language by the composer).

And then you’ve got an otherworldly sound that’s pretty much present in all of their music – from bouncy pop and folk to heart-wrenching ballads to full-out rock. They’ve even got a pretty eclectic mix of instruments, for some songs. The coolest is easily the one with the accordion – but other out-of-the-ordinary instruments include xylophones, bells, and even a sitar!

Before you even discover all that, however, you need a hook. For most fans, that hook is Keiko Kubota, Kalafina’s resident alto and crowd favorite.  She’s energetic and ridiculously pretty – probably the reason that she’s almost always to be found standing in the middle.

Another possible reason is because she’s almost always singing throughout any given Kalafina song – if she’s not leading, then she’s probably harmonizing with whomever is doing that with her deep, powerful voice (which is octaves lower than her speaking voice, just so you know).

Kalafina performs "Symphonia," the ending theme song of Rekishi Hiwa Historia, a series of historical reproductions. This is an example of one of their lighter songs (and their lighter tie-ins).

If you find yourself looking for other YouTube videos to hear if that deep voice is for real, then you’ve been caught in her trap. Keiko has said it herself: her job is simply to “attract attention.”

Once you’re caught, you have no choice but to listen to the other two voices – who are usually on the same level of “whoa,” but for entirely different reasons.

Balancing out Keiko’s alto is Wakana “Cinnamon Roll Too Good, Too Pure” Ootaki’s soprano. The two of them together are Kalafina’s original members, and they’re both also in another group by Yuki Kajiura called FictionJunction.

Wakana’s got a voice as clear as water, and it sounds divine in ballads. Kajiura has actually gone and said that she has the voice of a goddess – though probably one of misery, as she often describes Wakana’s voice as “tragic.”

Of the three ladies of Kalafina, she’s easily the most technically perfect singer, weaving higher melodies like she’s threading a needle.

Kalafina performs "Kagayaku Sora no Shijima ni wa," a special ending theme for Kuroshitsuji.One that played after someone died.

And that leaves Hikaru Masai – the dark horse in this group of dark horses because her voice is the closest to ordinary. Her vocal range sits right in the middle – but her secret weapon is her versatility. The quality of her voice (along with her entire personality, it seems) can change at the slightest shift of the music’s mood. It’s to the point that a casual listener may not even recognize her voice between certain songs!

But a good dark song is Hikaru’s trademark. She’s the only one of the three with an awesome grit in her voice, and when a rock song comes Kalafina’s way, it’s normally her time to shine.

Kalafina performs "Magia" from Puella Magi Madoka Magica – that magical girl anime everyone thought would be cute until someone was brutally murdered without warning. Cue this ending theme song. Do you see the general pattern yet?

Kalafina isn’t perfect – you need only see them try to dance to prove it. But the absolute best thing about this group is their harmony.

Be it in their voices, their costumes, or their personalities – the way they come together to create good music is really all it takes to fall in love with them for just them. Lending their voices to different shows just makes everything even better – with their different songs, you’re taken back to stories you used to know by heart and characters that you connected with.

Kalafina’s music keeps the love alive. And if their music happens to remind you of that anime where all your faves suffered and died horribly, then so be it.

Article by PaCho
Art by Camz
PaCho is the nickname of a full-time fangirl who has the extraordinary ability of being able to cry at any given opportunity. Sometimes instead of crying, she complains about the government, goes on some trips, takes some okay photos, and writes stuff.

Camz likes to print things. If she were a printing machine, she would like to be the Riso MZ 770; inexpensive and environment-friendly.